NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler and Candice LeRae gave a taste of what a future feud could offer with a barnstorming match at Download Festival.
The third day of WWE’s developmental division performing at the rock and metal event at Donington Park saw the brand’s top female heel and babyface collide.
Former mixed martial artist Baszler spent the early part of the match zoning in on Candice’s left arm, bending back her wrist and looking for a torturous submission.
The Canadian replied with an octopus hold but suffered an inverted stomp arm pull, as the catch wrestler continued to wrench at her arm and scowl at the crowd.
Candice picked up the pace with a diving swinging reverse STO, baseball slide and tornado DDT, before Baszler uncharacteristically headed to the top turnbuckle.
The champion nailed a stunning avalanche gutwrench suplex for a two count, then secured the victory with a running single leg high knee, but she wasn’t done there.
Shayna sadistically locked in a Kirifuda Clutch after the bell, only for her NXT TakeOver: Chicago opponent, Scotland’s Nikki Cross, to make the save for LeRae.
Former WWE UK Champion Tyler Bate faced the underrated Fabian Aichner, who was clearly determined to silence fans chanting “you’ve not won all weekend”.
Bate teased his opponent, performing turnbuckle headstands followed up by a kick and a headscissor takedown, but on the third attempt was sent crashing down.
Enraged by “Right Said Fred’ taunts, the bald-headed Italian hit a brutal tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on the Midlander, but Tyler upped his game and found a new gear.
He caught Aichner midair before delivering a huge suplex, connected with a standing shooting star press for a nearfall, then triumphed thanks to a Tyler Driver.
Two WWE UK stars, Tyson T-Bone and Wolfgang, formed a bruising duo to face the wily pairing of Zack Gibson and Marcel Barthel in another strong outing.
Former PCW Heavyweight Champion Tyson and ex-ICW Heavyweight Champion Wolfgang hit the heels with a double suplex, before Gibson and Barthel took control
Liverpool’s Number One punished Wolfgang with a wristlock suplex, working his left arm, as the big man sold his attacks with aplomb, looking for an opening.
That came when Zack, stood on the apron with his back to the ring performing a series of arm wrenches, was handed Barthel’s arm rather than Wolfgang’s.
This allowed T-Bone to make the hot tag and display a variety of suplexes, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Gibson submitting Wolfgang to the Shankly Gates.
Kenny Williams, narrowly bested on Saturday by Dave Mastiff in the WWE UK Championship Tournament, showed a lot of resilience to score a pin over Wesley Blake.
He confounded Blake by never standing still and hitting a sunset flip facebuster, springboard back elbows, a basement dropkick and a suicide dive to ignite the crowd.
One half of The Forgotten sons sensed victory following a thuddering double knee backbreaker, but Williams survived and snatched the win with a quick pinfall.
The final match of the afternoon session was a belting brawl pitting Undisputed Era against WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne, Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan.
London’s Burch imposed his will on Adam Cole before Lorcan and Kyle O’Reilly went at it in furious fashion, Oney showing he deserves more time on NXT television.
Dunne couldn’t wait to get his hands on Roderick Strong and a great spot saw all three faces snap the fingers of their three opponents, who howled in agony.
Everything Undisputed Era did was so slick and Dunne showed his quality by always doing his utmost to resist being dissected by the ex-Ring of Honor trio.
When he finally tagged Lorcan into the match Oney took down Cole and Strong with a great somersault plancha and hit a double blockbuster on Strong and O’Reilly.
All three of the faces applied submission holds as the crowd roared in encouragement before Cole accidentally superkicked O’Reilly and Strong caught him with a knee.
That allowed Dunne to hit O’Reilly with the Bitter End to cap off a fine contest and their team celebrated with an England flag, as the Americans were sent packing.
— Otis Dozovic (@WWEDozovic) June 10, 2018
The evening show, which Mirror Sport was unable to attend, saw The Coffey Brothers, Joe and Mark from Glasgow, Scotland, team up to defeat Heavy Machinery.
Ireland’s Jordan Devlin, who like Joe Coffey has qualified for the WWE UK Championship Tournament at the Royal Albert Hall, defeated Blackpool’s James Drake.
Another WWE UK pair, adopted Mancunian Ashton Smith and Dudley’s Dave Mastiff, beat The Forgotten Sons, Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler, by disqualification.
Scottish wildcat Nikki Cross defeated Tennessee native Bianca Belair ahead of a blockbuster main event heralded by some fans as the match of the weekend.
Finally, NXT Champion Aleister Black partnered Ricochet and Johnny Gargano to defeat the daunting trio of Lars Sullivan, Tommaso Ciampa and The Velveteen Dream, in a match said to be as good as anything seen all weekend.
Having been present for the first NXT weekend at Download in 2016, there’s no question the standard of matches has come on leaps and bounds.
Wrestling fans should pray for the yellow brand’s return to Donington Park in 2019 – and mark the weekend ready on their calendar.
— Andy Gibbons (@andyffgibbons) June 11, 2018